“Ohmigosh, I haven’t been to the grocery store all week and I am not going to get there for a few more days, either. What will we have for supper?”
While that scenario can be stressful, it is not a serious problem for people who practice effective food storage.
The menu will include fewer foods fresh from the grocery shelves, but that could well translate into tasty, nutritious meals just the same.
Why store food
In our area, many families make food storage a way of life. It is a viable option against a real calamity at some point, but if you plan to save food only to use in a calamity, you will be justified in feeling sorry for those who have to eat it.
Natural disasters are always a possibility, but only a true pessimist sees such occurrences at every turn. Food left untouched for years becomes stale and inedible. However, if you use and rotate such a supply it can be a hedge against disaster, unemployment or a very busy week.
Stocking up on foods when they are on sale makes good financial sense. Besides saving money on the initial purchase, having food on hand means fewer trips to the grocery store and a savings on gas and time.
An added bonus is that if you make a habit of using foods you can store, you are likely eating better all of the time.
However, hoarding food and not using it is an extreme waste of money. Frequently, consumers become so obsessed with storing foods that will last for a long time, they choose things they do not eat nor know how to use. As a result, after years pass, they are uncertain whether the food is safe to eat and must throw it away for safety.
Other times, it has lost its flavor and quality and they will opt to throw it out instead of eating it.
Thousands of dollars could go to waste. There is little difference between tearing up money today and throwing it away as food tomorrow.
What to store
Hone your organizational and planning skills and plan to make food storage a viable option. You must find room for storing food items, budget to purchase them, keep them insect-free and undamaged, and use them before they get stale.
To rotate foods, list the foods your family likes to eat.
Go through the list of favorite foods and add some food storage items to the recipe. For example, cooked dried beans, partially mashed, can be added to meatloaf without changing the texture or flavor drastically. Cooked dry beans are also a great addition to vegetable soup.
Attitude could be the difference between an effective food storage program and a waste of time and money. Store food as part of a management program, not simply as a safety net in case of disaster. Use stored foods within three to five years. Some foods last longer, but flavors deteriorate. Use it regularly to develop family eating habits to include these foods.
Food will be fresher when used frequently and the cook will have the skills for cooking it.
Our food tastes may be as much emotional as physical.
Any dieter can attest that psychologically, changing eating habits is always difficult. Doing it suddenly is even harder. A sudden change during a time of crisis would be harder yet.
Physically, the human body assimilates itself to eating patterns.
A sudden change in foods — even healthy ones — could result in digestive problems.
Changing the diet little by little allows the body to adapt gradually.
Be sure to store foods your family is familiar with. Some of these foods are not suitable for long-term storage, but would provide a comfort zone while adapting to those foods that can be stored for a longer time.
Collect recipes that use stored food items.
Use whole-wheat flour mixed with white flour in cookies, breads and baked products. Get used to an occasional bowl of cracked wheat cereal rather than switch suddenly to a diet of it.
Not everyone is excited about reconstituted powdered milk as a drink, but as part of a cooked recipe, it is generally entirely acceptable. Some people mix reconstituted milk half-and-half with liquid milk.
It is convenient to use powdered milk in baking by mixing milk powder with the dry ingredients. Simply determine the quantity of milk powder required to make the milk needed in a recipe, and add it to the dry ingredients. Add water for the required liquid.
Save garden produce As summer and gardening season approaches, plan to save some of that produce for winter use as part of an overall food storage program.
It could result in cost reduction provided you have canning jars on hand and home-grown produce. If you are purchasing the produce and new canning jars, you may not find it to be so economical. Fortunately, jars are reusable and can be an economic benefit in future years.
Waste not want not is a timeworn adage. In a good year, trees and gardens produce more than the average family can eat. Home food preservation is a way to avoid waste.
The knowledge that food is on hand for the future is a safety net.
Home canned food can be picked and processed at its peak and the flavor is not the same as commercial products.
Never underestimate the value of satisfaction. It feels good to lean new skills and to look at shelves full of food storage and know that you did that.
Next week’s article will include recipes for using food storage items. If any readers have favorites they would like to share, please e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.